PROVO — BYU concluded its spring camp Friday with a great sense of optimism, but there were plenty of reminders that the Cougars remain a work in progress.
Most of the reminding was provided by offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who jokingly chided media members that making sweeping declarations about the team was their job — not his.
“Let’s hold all judgements — myself included — until we get out of that first game,” Anae said. “At that point I’ll be better able to declare where the team is, and I think you all will be with me.”
That said, Anae and the rest of the coaches expressed a lot of satisfaction with the team’s overall progress and attitude heading into the offseason.
“Obedient, hard-working, hungry,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said of his players and their overall attitude. “Those are the three words I would use.”
Mendenhall and Anae both believe solid progress was made at every position and were particularly pleased with the strides they saw in the passing game.
Quarterback Taysom Hill led those improvements and received praise for his overall work.
“He’s delivering the ball timely, which means he has a lot better idea of when blitzes are coming, when coverages (change) and what the protection is,” Mendenhall said.
With regard to improving third-down production and overall completion percentage, Mendenhall again expressed satisfaction. “It probably exceeded what I was hopeful would get done," he said.
Hill's improvements were enhanced by improved play at both receiver and offensive line. At receiver, Mendenhall pinpointed junior college transfer Nick Kurtz, converted cornerback Michael Davis and Terenn Houk as three players who made great strides.
As for improvement along the offensive line, Anae said, "I’m really excited about the direction."
Hill noted a much better sense of camaraderie with the entire offense, but in particular with those along the offensive front.
"They're tough dudes," Hill said of the offensive line. "They came in and they battled day in and day out. ... I trust those guys."
As for the defensive side of the ball, Mendenhall again expressed satisfaction with the development of depth at most positions. When asked if there were any concerns on that side of the ball, he referenced some question marks at both inside linebacker and safety.
“Maybe one player away in those spots,” Mendenhall said.
With regard to the defensive line, Mendenhall stated he's pleased with the progress of recently returned LDS missionaries Travis Tuiloma and Graham Rowley and anticipates nose tackle Marques Johnson will return after sitting out spring with a blood-clotting issue.
As for the position keeping Mendenhall up at nights, he referenced deep snapper. The team will bring in some players to help solidify that position in the fall.
As for the kicking position, Mendenhall said the battle between Moose Bingham and Trevor Samson is "too close to call."
The team will now begin offseason preparations before practicing again July 29. When practices resume, Anae is as anxious as anyone to see where his players are at, but anticipates continued improvements after a very satisfying spring.
“A season is a marathon and now we’re into a new marathon, a new season. Here we go,” he said. “Are we better than where we were last year at this point? Way better, way further advanced, way more — just everything is night and day working better than last (year.)”